The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health is urging U.S. companies to appoint COVID-19 experts to their board of directors as a way to manage the pandemic threat that could linger for years, the Financial Times (FT) reported.
“I think what COVID does is lay bare just how essential it is to be prepared for man-made and natural disasters, and our economic resilience depends on being prepared,” Michelle Williams, the school’s dean, told FT. “Public health plays a key role in being prepared.”
The nation’s businesses have responded, she told the newspaper, by seeking the university’s public health expertise.
“I think the penny has dropped because unlike some of the other crises we’ve had, this one is enduring,” she told FT. “This one will be with us for a while. It has allowed the C-suite to realize this is not just an acute moment.”
Williams said the school has partnered with Kansas-based AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc., the largest movie theater chain in the world with 1,000 theaters and 11,000 screens in 15 countries; Snap-On Inc., the manufacturer and marketer of tools and equipment for professional use; banks and manufacturers.
“That’s allowed us to realize quite how important this is to take this moment ... to develop an enduring relationship with the business community,” she said.
In addition, Williams told FT that Harvard has seen a strong appetite to assist top management integrate public health principles in their businesses.
She said among the companies that have announced a new position of chief medical officer include Tyson Foods, Stanley Black & Decker and Royal Caribbean. Boston Properties, the publicly-traded real estate investment, has hired an expert on improving conditions in “sick buildings.”
“It’s important for academics and the private sector to come together and stay together,” Williams said. “In the business sector there’s a lot of understanding of data ... but where business falls short is in understanding behavioural and risk modelling. Putting those together is a more holistic and powerful approach.”
Earlier this year, Ning Wang, co-founder of PingPong, the global payments company, told PYMNTS a problem that once looked like a crisis restricted to China — and limited to a supply-side story about factories and sellers — has blossomed into a global geopolitical story impacting everyone.
“I think people are still in shock, and when people are in shock, they either do nothing or they go crazy and run around and try to do everything at once,” Wang said.